By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks’ goaltending position underwent more turnover last season, as another prospect overtook a veteran to earn a bulk of the load down the stretch. Longtime Chicago goalie prospect Corey Crawford finally had his chance with the big club last season and did not falter, appearing in 57 regular season games for the ‘Hawks and starting all seven playoff games against the Canucks.
Crawford’s surge came just one season after Finnish prospect Antti Niemi took the reigns from Cristobal Huet and eventually led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Even dating back to the 2008-09 season, veteran Nikolai Khabibulin was halfway out the door at the start of the season but earned a bulk of starts down the stretch and in the playoffs for the ‘Hawks. It has practically been a revolving door in Chicago’s net and that trend continued heading into the 2010-11 season.
During the summer of 2010, with the salary cap looming large over all of GM Stan Bowman’s maneuvers, the organization opted to walk away from Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitration award months just after the goalie raised the Stanley Cup. With Niemi out of the picture, Bowman turned to former Dallas Stars’ stalwart Marty Turco. Even at 35 years old by the start of the season, Turco was expected to carry the load as Crawford eased into his first full season of NHL duty.